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The present study was conducted to evaluate the impact of dietary fully oxidised β-carotene (OxBC, C40H60O15) supplementation during the perinatal period on immune status and productivity in a sow model. At day 85 of pregnancy, 150 sows were allocated to one of three dietary treatments with fifty sows per treatment. The three experimental diets were supplemented with 0, 4 or 8 mg/kg OxBC in the basal diet. The feeding trial was conducted from gestation day 85 until day 21 of lactation. Dietary OxBC supplementation greatly enhanced colostrum IgM, IgA and IgG levels, and the IgM and IgG content of 14-d milk. Dietary OxBC supplementation decreased the TNF-α and IL-8 levels in colostrum, as well as the TNF-α and IL-18 levels in 14-d milk. There was also a tendency towards an increase in the soluble CD14 level in 14-d milk. Although dietary treatments did not affect average daily feed intake nor backfat thickness loss during lactation, dietary OxBC supplementation tended to enhance litter weight and individual piglet weight at weaning. There was a trend towards increased lactose concentration in 14-d milk with increasing dietary OxBC. It is concluded that dietary supplementation with OxBC during the perinatal period enhances the lactose concentration of sow milk and the immune status of sows, which is reflected by improved cytokine status and immunoglobulin concentrations in colostrum and milk, and thus tending to increase litter weight and individual piglet weight at weaning. The results also provide a scientific nutritional reference for perinatal mothers due to the biological similarity between pigs and humans.
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